REVIEW: X Factor Auditions at Echo Arena 23/05/12

IT’S TIME! TO DESTROY! YOUR FAITH IN MUSIC! When the most promising thing you see during a day of auditions for the World’s Most Self Important Singing Competition is a trailer for Step Up 4: Miami Heat, you know you’re in for a rough ride. But as the circus rolled into town to launch yet another year of Britain Does Karaoke it was clear that the “X Factor” looks set to remain as elusive as the Higgs boson. Stevie Daly reviews..

A delay of over three hours outside the Echo Arena didn’t set the day up for the best of starts, and by the time the judges finally started to arrive for their walk of shame down the red carpet the crowd were more interested in resting their feet than indulging a faded pop sensation desperately clinging to the remnants of their fame. Or Louis Walsh.

Once (eventually) inside and seated, we were lead through a chorus of appropriate reactions – Cheer! Wave! Boooooo! Be Shocked! – to be spliced into the footage later, along with a half-arsed rendition of Happy Birthday to Dermot before the judges once again deigned to grace us with their presence and words of godly wisdom.

First up to be thrown to the lions was one-time local drag artiste Chris Culligan. A good Cilla, passable Bublé and terrible Debbie Harry impression later he was sent home. More successful were so-squeaky-clean-it-hurt ensemble IT Girls, whose youthful enthusiasm and high kicks endeared them to the judges, if not the captive audience. After not-so-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell briefly pretended to be a cat, 16 year old Shannon from Dublin impressed Tulisa with her brand you can really buy into, reminding anyone who had somehow forgotten that this show really is all about the talent and not the potential profit. At all.

The day’s first big controversy came with Brummie 4-piece Sorority, who enthralled the audience with their second-song version of Candy Man but apparently left the judges cold. Despite the positive response from all behind them, the powers-that-be unsubtly instructed Gary and co. to deliver a “no” verdict. This was the beginning of the end as the crowd began to grow increasingly restless and lose patience with the endless make-up retouches and bad jokes from irritating as hell compère Ian Royce.

It was up to William ‘not just William’ to lighten the mood with a glorious rendition of “Queen Rhapsody or something like that” and Vietnamese student Jason who sidestepped some casual racism from Mr Barlow to deliver a really rather good take on RIP Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing. But they and those who followed had to struggle to make an impression as the background chatter increased and an act almost had to start singing before the audience noticed Louis had finished getting his face fixed and we were ready to go on with the show.

Same Difference bred with Jedward to produce Little and Large, inventing a “new sort of rap” to haunt your darkest dreams. Lovely 52 year old Linda wanted to win to get a gastric band for her cat, but despite getting her Liza on her Maybe This Time didn’t do enough to see her into the next round – while Geri’s non-ironic “your song choice was a little bit Cabaret” comment earned her the award for best example of stating the bloody obvious.

Series regular Ashwin, who one day hopes to be as big as Cliff Richard, began with a respectably bad-interesting version of Garbage’s The World Is Not Enough, but with it being not quite enough of a car-crash was goaded into a much more mockable Cheryl Cole impression. As Geri repeatedly pleaded with him to not lose his cool (because, you see, last time he lost his cool, and they definitely didn’t want it to happen again) the crowd upped the ante with boos, jeers and cries of “fuck off!” directed at the former Queen of Ginger.

Things didn’t improve as Jonny James took to the stage. His cut-price Gaga went down alright, but by the time everyone had figured out if he was a girl or a boy and the judges had agonised over whether to send him through (they did, after an eternity) all interest had withered and died. Mr Royce blurted increasingly desperate pleas for the audience to stay seated and not drift off to the loo or to find something more interesting (for example, watching paint dry), so it was lucky that local rapper Miss Styliee bounced on with just enough energy to prevent a full-blown revolt. Also known as Jade Jackson or “that one off of Don’t Tell The Bride”, her rapping style seemed to mystify the Music Experts who were leading the charade, with Tulisa feeling the need to emphasise her “someone who understands urban music” credentials, Gary and Louis admitting defeat and Geri going on a bizarre rant before repeating the name of her former girl-group over and over like a broken record that needs a short sharp smack.

Accompanied by ever-growing groans of exasperation Jade was eventually given that all important ‘yes’ majority and the ded ‘appy Nikita flounced into view, channelling her inner Jennifer Ellison. First belting out a Peggy Lee number that failed to bring the crowd back on side, her next choice was Aerosmith’s camp classic I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing but this potential highlight was immediately shot down by the producers and Louis helpfully suggested having a stab at Adele instead. Better, but still not good enough, and with the judges all but crying out for something truly inspiring to justify the already made ‘yes’ decision the big guns were brought out: a cover of everyone’s favourite Scouse Bird, Rebecca Ferguson.

After the blessed relief of a 15 minute break we were back for more and raring to go and then… what’s this? Ian has some news for us. It seems that due to “technical difficulties” we will need to clear the arena. But moving us out and back in again to sort the problem would take about an hour and a half, and as there is a crowd of people outside waiting for the next session… yep, that’s right. Instead of coming clean and saying that they were running hours behind and had ballsed up big-time we got a “sorry you’re going to miss out on the other 9 acts, now we’re going to clear you from the arena. THANKS FOR COMING!”

After the delays, obvious contestant fixes, desperate pandering from the celebrity judges and tiresome demands to pretend we were enjoying it for the cameras this, naturally, did not go down too well.

And if this is representative of what’s to come then it’s once again time to despair at the future of music, television, and humanity.


Words: Stevie Daly
Image: David Munn / Echo Arena

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